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Business Intelligence – Who Cares?


The answer to this question is probably about 2% of the employees within an organization. Let me start by saying I made this number up and have not done any serious research in to the topic. The following is entirely an opinion piece.

When I started out in ERP (not that long ago – but longer than 10 yrs) the sales process was all about functionality. Back in 1998 the important topics in a sales presentation were “how do you calculate average cost” or “How are landed costs calculated” or “When is revenue recognised on a cost + project”. We started to introduce Business Intelligence (BI) – which was an alternate name for pretty, colorful graphs with an image of geese flying north if sales were good and south if sales were bad. Prospects would smile and nod being suitably impressed, but then the BI implementation was scheduled for phase 3 or 4 and may never have happened.

As over time all ERP’s got closer together in functionality the industry started to focus heavily on Reporting – and getting at your data for analysis. The graphs got sexier, colors brighter and the ‘what if’s’ more powerful in the demo. This has been a fantastic move and most businesses are benefiting from the myriad of tools available.

When I look at the Agenda for Convergence 2010 I noticed there are 27 individual sessions focused on BI. I was going to write a blog titled “Do Microsoft and its VAR’s put too much emphasis on BI”? My answer was going to be YES – but the more I researched the less my argument stood up. At convergence this year there are 140 session topics focused Dynamics GP. To me the 27 to 140 Ratio is about right. The reason we all have ERP systems is to first capture the data and drive/control day to day business activity (that’s the 140) and then to use the data we collect to help us run the business more efficiently/profitably.

What I do hope to see in the 27 sessions is what Microsoft is doing in regards to BI – for Dynamics GP customers. Microsoft as a whole is investing heavily in this space which is what they should do, but these generic tools are available to all ERP systems in the market. Call it Anti-Competitive but I would love to see some of the ‘special’ functionality held back just for Dynamics customers. As a reseller this is the differentiator we need, and a benefit that flows from backing the Microsoft horse. Perhaps this can be delivered by embedding this functionality into the ERP application itself, building GP specific templates, easy deployment wizards for GP, special Pricing or some other creative solution.

Now in Microsoft’s defence we already have some 200 odd out of the box Excel and SRS reports that are BI ready. The metric interface inside GP is getting better and the Sharepoint/BI dashboards are looking sweet. Well Done.

So I guess what I think the attendees at convergence will want to see is ‘not pretty graphs’ but ‘what the pretty graphs mean to them and their GP environment’. Things that need addressing are:
1. Ease/Difficulty of Deployment
2. How to Deploy
3. Cost of getting what you want.
4. What BI can you get on a budget
5. What GP data is hard to get at?
6. If I want that Pretty Sharepoint Portal with Dashboards – where do I start?
7. Has my VAR been trained on delivering similar technologies to what is shown on stage by a Microsoft Exec?

Dynamics GP customers are pretty savvy. These are not people easily fooled. The experiences customers will have had to date include:
1. Asking for what was a simple report – and it taking 3 days and $4000
2. Needing a change to Report – and it taking 3 days and $4000
3. Asking for a report like what they saw in the demo – and being delivered an unattractive crystal report.
4. Being delivered a Cube or Pivot Table – but the 2 key things they want to analyze being missing.
5. Plus I hope plenty of good experiences.

I guess my point is that I hope to see some real GP BI substance to what is shown to customers in Atlanta, and more importantly both VAR’s and Microsoft must ensure there is a team of people able to execute and deliver the vision.

For the other 98% of GP users I am sure you will enjoy the 140 sessions. Microsoft are doing some good things in GP to make all our lives easier. If you are attending in Atlanta get to as many sessions as you can, corner the people who are in know and don’t leave until you are better informed. For many of you it is the daily business you conduct inside GP that is important, so learn all the tips and tricks you can. GP is a great tool – so ensure you are getting full value from your companies investment.

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